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Wild's even better with "Guide'

The phone here never stops ringing.

Where can I go catch some snook?

I'd like to take the kids camping ... any suggestions?

Know any wild, spring-fed rivers that I can paddle without a crowd?

These are the active outdoors folks, always on the go, never satisfied unless they are doing something.

But there's another breed out there: the quiet ones. They keep to themselves, content to observe nature's beauty, taking only photographs, leaving only footprints.

State officials estimate that in 1991 one of every five Floridians traveled away from home to view, photograph and study wildlife. That's 2.6-million people.

It's not surprising. Florida supports more species of plants and animals than any other state in the continental United States except California and Texas.

The Sunshine State has more than 7,700 lakes at least 10 acres in size, including Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest freshwater lake within the boundaries of the United States.

Floridians also enjoy the only coral reef in the continental United States, off the Florida Keys, the third-largest reef system in the world.

The new Florida Wildlife Viewing Guide, published by federal and state natural resource agencies in partnership with private groups, is designed to help give residents and visitors greater access to these natural treasures.

Authors Susan Cerulean and Ann Morrow break the state down into seven regions. They tell you what to do before you go, what to take, and what to do once you get there.

And that means practicing good outdoor ethics.

"When wildlife watchers get too close, serious problems may arise," they write. "Energy that the animal uses to escape human disturbances is no longer available for other uses repeated disturbances may add up to higher costs than the animal can afford."

The Florida Department of Transportation this year will erect signs along roadsides near prime viewing areas. The guide is available in local bookstores. To purchase it directly from Falcon Press for $7.95, call (800) 582-2665.

Here is a sampling of the 17 featured spots in the Tampa Bay area:

Jay. B Starkey Wilderness Park, in Pasco County: Offers pine flatwoods, sandhills, hardwood hammock, sand-pine scrub, freshwater marsh, cypress and river swamp, and wet prairie. Look for wild turkey, white-tailed dear and sandhill cranes.

Upper Tampa Bay County Park: Has salt marshes, mangroves and salt barrens surrounded by Old Tampa Bay and Double Branch Creek. Good canoeing and bird-watching.

Sawgrass Lake Park, in Pinellas County: Built for water retention, but the same features that help prevent flood damage also attract wildlife. The Anderson Environmental Center has a large freshwater aquarium and other exhibits that provide background on the geological, biological and cultural forces that shaped the park.

These are just three of more than 90 entries. If you get the book, buy a DeLormer Florida Atlas and Gazetteer to help you on your way. Each guide entry lists the corresponding Gazetteer map page.

_ An expanded outdoors report appears each Friday.